RALEIGH — Inmates facing first-degree murder or rape charges are no longer available for work detail in North Carolina. The changes, which were announced Monday by theDepartment of Correction, come in the wake of a deadly attempted escape last month.
Three inmates were shot while trying to run from theOdom Correctional Institutionin Northampton County. Bem Holloway, one of the inmates, died after being shot by a correction officer.
Holloway was in prison for theattempted murder and rapeof two Raleigh women. He was also awaiting trial on two counts of first-degree murder in separate slayings in Robeson and Bladen Counties. If convicted, he could have been sentenced to death.
However, anyone convicted of murder and not sentenced to death or anyone convicted of rape is eligible for work release.
Under the new rule, Holloway would not have been allowed on work detail.
After Holloway's attempted escape, a number of people complained that inmates like him should work inside secure facilities, like Raleigh's Central Prison -- not out on a prison work farm.
The Department of Correction says it made a mistake with Holloway.
"It was apparent to us, with these outstanding charges, that this person never should have been working on a farm," says Patty McQuillan, spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Correction.
Effective immediately, the state's two work farms will be off-limits to prisoners awaiting trial on first-degree murder or rape trials. Those work farms are the Odom Correctional Institution and the Caledonia Prison in Halifax County.
"Bem Holloway had outstanding charges, and we've decided that that's not right to have an inmate working outside the prison who has outstanding charges because he technically could have been on death row had he been convicted and sentenced to death," says McQuillan.
The rule also says anyone facing more than 40 years in custody must spend one full year in confinement before qualifying for work detail.
While this new rule addresses questions many had about the state's work detail program, some still question whether it is enough.
Victims' rights advocates, includingRepresentative Rick Eddins, say the changes do not go far enough.
"When you have a person that's committed -- a child molester, say a rapist or murderer -- they expect these people to be locked up, much less having the chance to be out working, even in a farming situation," says Eddins, who represents Wake County.
The father of one of Holloway's victims says he is pleased the Department of Correction decided to review and change its policy.
He added that even though the state is confident it can catch people trying to escape from the work farms, the victims can never feel safe if they know the person who attacked them is working outside a prison fence.
More than 500 inmates under medium and maximum security are under close supervision in work programs. Most of them work in farm programs in Northampton and Halifax Counties.
One inmate in each program has already been pulled.
The policy change affects another 54 people facing first-degree murder or rape charges. From staff and wire reports.